2019 Employee Experience Trends and Predictions: What is on the radar of EX professionals this year?

January 15, 2019by Mike LepisLeadership and StrategyInternal Communications

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With the new year already in full swing, we have tapped some great thinkers in the world of Employee Experience (EX) to discuss the trends to keep an eye on in 2019. There is no doubt EX is on the map–companies across all sectors are realizing the urgency and competitive advantage of investing in their people. It is rewarding to observe this sea change. We are seeing companies of all sizes reach out and share that EX is a priority coming from the executive floor.

To mix up our 2019 trends post, we reached out to our colleagues, peers, and top thought leaders to hear what trends and predictions are on their radar for 2019.

Looking forward to another stellar year for Employee Experience! Cheers!

Mike Lepis Co-Founder Vignette, EX Thought Leader, foodie, and MLS soccer fan, resides in the magical Pacific Northwest, with his wife and two young kiddos. @mikevignette

Earning the Trust of the Associates with Humble and Transparent Leadership

Employees today are no different than a savvy customer base. They demand and deserve the same respect, authenticity, clarity, and attentiveness you would give a customer who pays for your service or product. For generations, employers have transmitted information top-down, leaving employees waiting to find out information, and expecting, sometimes incorrectly, that the employer would provide all the answers. When inevitably those answers didn’t come, trust between the two is eroded.

Technology and evolving expectations of the workplace have upended this traditional employee-employer communications model, and it’s up to the company to adjust. The relay of information is now a two-way street, where employees expect to have a voice heard by their employer and expect the organization to be responsive and proactive with information. The failure of organizations to adapt to this new reality often leads employees to wonder, “What are they hiding?,” or even, “Do they care about me or only the bottom line?”

The good news is there are many companies who have built a strong foundation of trust with employees, as evidenced by the many long years of service that many associates have at the organization. Big or small, how companies approach their communications is more important than ever.

Trust starts with being authentic and is supported by being consistent. Put yourself in the employees shoes and try an empathic perspective. Humility is a bit more of a challenge. Many leaders shy away from humility for a variety of reasons, including old-school role models of leadership. But we’ve seen oftentimes what separates good leaders from great leaders is the ability to own shortcomings in performance, culture, or previous approaches to the employee experience. Showing humility provides an opportunity to have a genuine conversation that respects the employee and humanizes the organization.

If trust and humility are something you want to work on in your company’s approach to the employee experience, there is a simple test you can do. Create a filter to help guide you. A filter can be a person who you bounce things off of, or consider a set of tenets you check your communications against.

Gregg Apirian
Employee Experience Leader | Marketing, Communications & Technology Expert

2019 will be the year of digital transformation

But where do you start? Define your vision for what the digital transformation looks like, just like marketing has done. Platforms, content and marketing strategies, integrations with other technologies, and a healthy amount of change management can power your communications to a new level of employee satisfaction. Communicators can obtain new capabilities and skills to reach all employees, engage and retain them, and finally — measure the effectiveness of their communications. Now is the time to leverage technology that was previously cost prohibitive in employee communications. And now an essential component to a company’s success. But be mindful–technology without a vision is not going to bring you much value. So before you embark on your digital transformation, plot your course.

Keep in mind technology has its advantages and disadvantages. We live in the age of distraction (media, stocks, kids, family, school, etc) which makes competing for attention a challenge inside the workplace.

As you are planning your transformation, take note of a few insights to help guide your journey:

  • More than 80% of employees prefer mobile communications because their life is on the go. Meet them where they are.
  • Employees expect and deserve a mobile-first experience, and Communicators need digital technology to deliver on this requirement. That technology exists, and has been specifically designed for them.
  • Don’t overlook change management in your technology plans. Always expect resistance, even when the business case sounds so right.
  • Leadership needs to lead. Without their support your swimming against the current. Find ways to not only get their support on your business case, but to help you drive the results by leading by example.
  • Measurement of internal communications has never been so important. There are several platforms available that offer basic to comprehensive analytics solutions, with easy to use dashboard interface and hundreds of reports to create and share.
  • What’s in it for me? Understand your audience so your use cases and business cases address employees expectations. In turn, the employee receives targeted, relevant content and information that they want more of.

Kristin Hancock Leading the workplace revolution in fabulous shoes. Never met a hot dog I didn’t like. @KristinAnneH

Internal communicators will continue to “tribe up”

Internal communicators will continue to “tribe up” and foster relationships with fellow ICers to celebrate success and share ideas on how we can improve. What we need to do is build stronger relationships with our business partners in IT, HR, and finance (to name a few) to collectively elevate the voice of the employee.

Internal communicators will continue to seek out ways to earn a seat at the elusive table

What we need to do is measure our success to provide tangible evidence that what we’re doing matters and has an impact on the bottom line.

Internal communicators will continue to be asked to do more with less

What we need to do is stay creative and remember that it doesn’t cost anything to show appreciation.. Katie Augsburger   Portlander, Parent, HR expert disrupting how we think about employee experience through client engagement and thought leadership, purveyor of pretty objects. @katiepdx101

Building community in our organization for 2019

With so much happening in the world, it can feel impossible to figure out where to put your focus for the coming year. But from my lens, those of us in HR should put our energy and focus on building community in our organization for 2019. With all the political, economic, climate upheaval, people are looking for stability, relationships and a sense of trust in organizations. Working to strengthen community, increase authenticity and provide clarity might not seem revolutionary, but in these turbulent times, it may just be the key differentiator between you and your competition.

Mike Klein
Netherlands-based internal comms pro, Principal of Changing The Terms, author of the Happeo IC research series and 20-year fan of Tottenham Hotspur, an English soccer club. @mklein818

#EmployeeExperience will develop multiple definitions

Vendors selling one will surprise companies expecting something else, and then task IC/EE/HR staff to somehow close the expectation gap.

I see three definitions of #EmployeeExperience emerging. Tech vendors are trying to sell a better, or even a seamless “employee user experience” as simply “employee experience.” Others will see and focus on the “employee lifecycle journey” from onboarding to alumni status as “the employee experience.” Still, others will work towards wholesale transformation towards “employee-centric culture” under the rubric of “employee experience.”

None of these concepts are bad — and there will likely be other approaches that add to this list.  What is concerning — is when those selling one of these outcomes start claiming that they will produce another: e.g.: that somehow having a functioning IT platform will fundamentally make an organization’s culture employee-centric.

We’ve seen this before with employee engagement, a term defined in wildly different ways, but whose pursuit has always been unwavering and pressurized. Organizations with unrealistic expectations have been sold inappropriate solutions. And, more often than not, internal comms and HR teams were either tasked with cleaning up the mess, or bore the brunt of management cynicism about the inability to “move the people side of the needle.”

I don’t see this trend as avoidable. But I do think IC and HR professionals are the key to tempering it. In-house pros have to move beyond the “any investment is better than no investment” mentality. They have to be brave in engaging senior leaders to define realistic, clear and appropriate expectations, and in helping them navigate their way to vendors who can tangibly address those expectations.  If not, they will again be likely to have to clean up the mess.

Saskia Jones
Communications Consultant and Coach, specialising in internal communications and advising leaders and managers on communications. She loves boxing, being in the mountains and spending time with family and friends. @saskiahjones1

Employee experience drives customer experience

Countless studies have now shown that what happens on the inside of your organisation is felt on the outside by your customers. Plus, thanks to digital and social technologies, employees have found a public voice, whether their bosses like it or not. Workplace experiences get quickly shared online. The importance of a positive employee experience is vital to customer experience and company reputation. More companies will embrace this in 2019 and invest in employee experience, realising that it is a strategic priority.

Employee experience is a team effort

As companies become more and more driven to create an exceptional employee experience, it will be clear that this cannot be achieved by HR teams alone. HR leaders in 2019 will increasingly be partnering with marketing, brand, internal communications, and IT – all of whom own different pieces of the jigsaw, and who can come together to create a seamless employee experience.

Senior leadership communication remains vital

Senior leaders need to engage employees in order for employee experience efforts to thrive. In PwC’s Fulfilment at Work survey in November 2018, nearly one-third of respondents named senior leaders as a barrier to finding fulfillment at work. In 2019, there will be a continued focus on supporting leaders to develop a personal connection to employees. Key to this will be encouraging leaders to show recognition of individuals at work, engage in conversations, listen to people at all levels of the organization, and speak with employees openly and authentically. Relationships with leaders will remain an invaluable facet of employee experience.

Rachel Miller
Helps #InternalComms pros to succeed by boosting their skills & confidence. Chartered #PR. Fellow @CIPR_UK & IoIC. @theICcrowd Founder. Mum of 3, including twins.

My predictions for trends that are set to stay and grow in 2019 are:

  1. Face-to-face

Always. We’ve been trying to recreate it inside organisations with webinars, live-streaming, and videos for at least a decade. But nothing beats an in-person conversation without a screen in-between. The value of being able to read body language in the same room, catching the micro expressions and the physical connections we make, speaks volumes. In the age of the machine, we need to be human now more than ever. You cannot beat face-to-face for truly effective interactions.

I spotted a trend along these lines earlier this year as lots of my clients and comms friends were renaming their Town Halls FaceTime. BUT make no mistake, it’s not just for our CEOs and senior leaders to have their faces visible. It’s to enable our leaders to make a physical, emotional, and human connection with our workforce and see their faces. Having your leader physically in a room is tangibly different. Yes, of course, you can use technology, but you’re trying to replicate face-to-face. How can you make the most of face-to-face opportunities in your organisation?

How can you encourage both your leaders and employees to be more visible? What would the impact be?

There will always be a need for face-to-face communication. When I write my 2029 predictions, I think it will still be on the list. Will it be robot-to-robot? Hmm, unlikely. AI (artificial intelligence) certainly has lots of wonderful uses and application for internal communication, I know I will be writing much more on this in the future and it fascinates me. But for now, many organisations need to focus on getting the basics right. Further reading: Three technology megatrends you need to know now.

  1. Repurposing content

How can you repurpose your IC content so it works harder for you? I’m plotting a blog post on this for early 2019. I’ve been championing it all year with my clients and think it’s an opportunity for IC pros to make the most of in 2019 and beyond.

What does it mean? It’s about thinking about your content in a different way when you start it. For example, as I mentioned in Paul Sutton’s podcast earlier this year, you could take a video, strip out the audio and repurpose it to be an internal podcast.

If you have employees who are unable to watch videos, could they listen to audio such as a podcast? Many organisations are now using podcasts. How can you record audio from company occasions, meetings, and employee events and use it in other places? Your content needs to work hard for you, it’s not about replicating information, but making smart choices with your time.

Auditory learning is on the rise and podcasts are incredibly popular. We’ve used Voice for internal communication for years. From RAC having cassette tapes in their recovery vehicles in the 1980s and 1990s, to recorded information lines in the 1990s and 2000s. Voice isn’t new, but there are now multiple ways to use it. The majority of my household is controlled by Voice, it’s quickly becoming the norm. Trends are an excerpt from “Internal Comms predictions for 2019…

We hope you enjoyed our trends post

We think 2019 will be a stellar year for EX. If you need some help kicking off your 2019 EX strategy or are inspired to take on one of these trends please reach out. We would love to chat and see how we can help you.

Mike Lepis

As a Chief Strategy Officer, Mike leads our team to develop strategy, insights and creative solutions to drive employee engagement. He believes through human-centered design and strategic communications—employees will get behind a brand and its mission.